It was supposed to be a bright new beginning for St Albans, but it stumbled out of the gates.
The Saints were left deflated after a three-point loss to Hoppers Crossing in the Western Region Football League division 1 season opener at Kings Park Reserve on Saturday.
A summer of big expectations, stirred by the arrival of a new coaching staff and some flashy recruits, were dampened by the first-up defeat.
However, Saints football operations manager Bill Asani was confident it was just a blip on the radar.
“As disappointing as it was to lose, we believe there’s a fair bit of upside to us,” he said.
“It was the first game of the year and we know we’re going to get better.
“We had 13 blokes that had played less than 30 games for the club, of which nine were less than five games.”
The Saints were trailing by 16 at the end of the first quarter and that extended to 22 by the main break. Three goals in a half of footy was not what the Saints had turned up for, but they got nice glimpse into the potential of this side in a stunning third quarter.
The Saints banged on five goals to one to take a four-point lead.
“That third quarter was brilliant,” Asani said.
“There was really good ball movement, players linking up, going through waves and skill execution, our handball chains, the whole box and dice.
“We were really thrilled with that.”
St Albans used up all its energy to get back into the game and the injury-plagued Hoppers Crossing found a second wind to work their way in front and hold on for a victory.
“The rumours going around with Hoppers being a little bit weaker this year, that could be true with the player losses they’ve had, but they’re still a very good football side,” Asani said.
St Albans will need to lift if it wants to return from Caroline Springs with a win in the second round this Saturday.
While Tim Jenkins and Shylo Smith impressed through the midfield and Ben Said (four goals) and Leigh Brennan (three) starred up forward, a number of Saints were down on expectation or underdone first up.
Asani knows that St Albans doesn’t have too much time to get it right.
“The 18 games this year, each and every one of them is going to be a dog fight,” he said.
“If you don’t start well early, you can be in a bit of strife.”
Elsewhere in division 1, Deer Park unfurled its premiership flag, but that was where the joy ended in a three-point loss to Altona at John McLeod Oval.
Caroline Springs, led by Jordan Doering, lived up to the hype with a 75-point win over Albion on the road at J.R. Parsons Reserve.
Last year’s runners up Sunshine Kangaroos had a disappointing 31-point loss to Werribee Districts at Kinder Smith Reserve.
In division 2, Albanvale was no match for Parkside, going down by 72 points at Henry Turner Reserve.
In the third tier, Braybrook had a hard fought win over Sunshine Heights, while North Sunshine thrashed Laverton by 54 points.